CCCC PLAYLIST by JEFFREY SOBIERAJ
1. WELCOME 2 DETROIT - INSTRUMENTAL J DILLA
J Dilla needs no introduction. A Detroit veteran of the lo-fi hip-hop scene who died far too young, you’ve likely heard his name mentioned in the upper echelons of rap—Kendrick, Drake, Chance—or have visited the Detroit donut shop, Dillas Delights, envisioned after his magnum opus, Donuts. An appropriate entry into this playlist all things Detroit.
2. CAN YOU GET TO THAT FUNKADELIC
George Clinton may not be from Detroit, but his psychedelic funk vehicles—Parliament and Funkadelic—are, and they spawned everything from science fiction to 90s hip-hop to most recently Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Long live “p-funk.”
3. OBAMACARE QUELLE CHRIS
Quelle Chris has good taste. This lo-fi hip-hop artist is inspired by the likes of Dilla and Danny Brown, and on his most recent album, Innocent Country 2, he hosts an impressive array of collaborators, from underground rap legend Earl Sweatshirt to Brooklyn comedy staple Josh Gondelman. Plus, he’s married to rapper Jean Grae, who’s an all-around hip-hop legend.
4. CHANGE - MIKE HUCKABY REMIX NORM TALLEY, MIKE HUCKABY
Huckaby, fondly known as Huck, was a pioneer of the “deep house” movement and a walking encyclopedia of everything techno and house. You could find Huck in his natural habitat, the Record Shop in Detroit, where he worked at from 1992 to 2005, or at many of his weekly artist residencies throughout the city. We lost Huck to COVID this year, as we have many of our POC family, but his mark on the history of Detroit reverberates in his wake.
5. IT'S MY HOUSE DIANA ROSS
A personal fav. Diana Ross is it: singer, actress, record producer. As a singer, she led Motown’s most successful act to date, The Supremes, scored several number one singles as a solo artist in her own right, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Ross also holds a Golden Globe win and Academy Award nomination for her role in the film, Lady Sings the Blues. Billboard had it right when they named her “Female Entertainer of the Century.”
6. SURF & TURF BOLDY JAMES, THE ALCHEMIST, VINCE STAPLES
Underground Detroit rapper Boldy James has been around for a minute, but as the world reels from a deadly virus and countless exacerbations of racial injustice, James is thriving. His third release of the year came out just weeks ago, and so far he’s 3/3—they’re all incredible. James is on a hot streak right now, so don’t miss out! After all, there are still three months left in the year, plenty of time for at least a couple albums.
7. HOLD ON GABY (FR), MOODYMANN
Moodymann’s the real deal. A staple of the Detroit DJ scene, he has an uncanny ability to stretch a disco groove into a hypnotic anthem, adding electronic flourishes that build into something momentous. When live music starts up again, don’t sleep on catching Moodymann live.
8. LOVE'S GOT ME HIGH TERRENCE PARKER
Terrence Parker, like Huck, has been DJing since the beginning. Known for his skilled turntablism style of playing house music, Parker’s widely revered for using an actual telephone headset as headphones while on stage. Another Detroit musical treasure.
9. TIRED OF BEING ALONE AL GREEN
For some of the artists on this list, it’s like, how can you even write a short biography about this person? They’re towering figures in pop culture, history in general, and a few sentences could never deliver the deserved justice. Reverend Al Green’s certainly one of those artists. I mean, the soul legend wrote “Tired of Being Alone,” “Take Me to the River,” and of course, “Let’s Stay Together.” Is there anything more to say?
10. WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO THE SUPREMES
It’s about time we forgo pleasantries and speak clearly and emphatically: soul, R&B, and by extension, hip-hop, owes their collective legacy to The Supremes. Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson are to date the most popular vocal group in the US, and in the mid-60s even rivaled the popularity of The Beatles. If you’re not grooving along to “Baby Love” by the end of the second bridge, well then, I don’t know what to say.
11. THIS OLD HEART OF MINE (IS WEAK FOR YOU) THE ISLEY BROTHERS
What started out as a vocal trio of three brothers in the '50s became a full-blown family affair in the '70s. The Grammy-winning soul/funk group went through many iterations, both artistically and physically, but their piercing, groovy tunes always shone through. Check out their original version of “At Your Best (You Are Love),” beautifully covered by Aaliyah and later Frank Ocean.
12. AT YOUR BEST (YOU ARE LOVE) AALIYAH
We lost Aaliyah way too young. The artist who was once posited to revolutionize R&B music as we know it (and did to a large extent), tragically died in 2001 in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Her cover of The Isley Brothers’ (also on this list) “At Your Best (You Are Love)” is an absolute heartbreaker of a song, only to be (maybe) outdone by the illusory queer icon Frank Ocean. Check YouTube for that version as well.
13. I THINK OF YOU RODRIGUEZ
The story of Sixto Rodriguez is far too rich and mind-boggling to encapsulate in a few sentences, not to mention it was expertly portrayed in the documentary Searching for Sugar Man (please watch, highly highly recommend!), but here goes. Rodriguez, born and raised in Detroit, released two fantastic political folk albums in the 1970s, but was overshadowed by peers such as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. His talent wasn’t lost on one nation though. He went platinum in South Africa, though a combination of pre-Internet recognition and Rodriguez’s commitment to toil in obscurity left him without his due reward. Fortunately, two South African megafans tracked him down decades later in an attempt to see if he was even still alive, let alone aware of his success abroad. Watch the documentary for this heartwarming conclusion.
14. JOURNEY IN SATCHIDANANDA ALICE COLTRANE, PHAROAH SANDERS
Alice Coltrane is beyond this world. As if a fruitful career as a jazz musician wasn’t enough, she went on to marry John Coltrane (yes, the John Coltrane), and inspired one of the greatest works of all time, The Love Supreme. After Coltrane’s death, she sought spiritual guidance from several gurus, established the Vedantic Center in California, and changed her name to Turiyasangitananda. As Turiyasangitananda, she released several avant-garde spiritual jazz albums, most notably Turiya Sings.
15. THE TRACKS OF MY TEARS SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES
Smokey Robinson is a Motown staple. Leader of the popular group, The Miracles, Smokey enjoyed major success as front man and solo artist, though he temporarily stepped down to assume role of vice president of Motown. The creative soul couldn’t last long in admin, and he returned to music and great success only years later.
16. MY LAST CHANCE - SALAAM REMI REMIX MARVIN GAYE, SALAAM REMI
If this list just consisted of Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, I wouldn’t be pressed. The proclaimed “Prince of Motown” was a go-to in-house session player for Motown artists, that is until he released What’s Going On, the concept album told from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran who returned from war to a country filled with hatred, suffering, and injustice. It was a revolutionary album for Motown at the time, and established Gaye as a creative prodigy. He was tragically shot and killed by his father in Los Angeles before the age of 45, but his influence on music and popular culture in general cannot be overstated. Gaye’s pic adorns the cover of this playlist!
17. GROWN UP DANNY BROWN
Danny Brown is the coolest. He drops Radiohead references in his songs, raps in a sort of frantic cartoonish delivery, and can write a straight-up mainstream banger in the same breath as an experimental lo-fi rap classic. Unapologetically himself, Brown only gets better, so don’t miss this Detroit native in his prime.
18. THIS IS FOR YOU THEO PARRISH, MAURISSA ROSE
Theo Parrish may not be from Detroit, but he’s been making Detroit-style techno and house for long enough to be an honorary native. If you’re a fan of Moodymann, don’t sleep on Parrish.
19. DANCER ROBERT HOOD
Robert Hood’s best known for being the founder of minimal techno, a genre that inspired notable electronic and experimental works. He’s Detroit through and through, and founded the minimal techno label M-Plant.
20. BISHOP SCHOOL YUSUF LATEEF
Yusuf Lateef earns the title of multi-instrumentalist. Originally a tenor saxophone and flute player, he went on to incorporate a number of non-western instruments in his work, including the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, and koto. As New York Times writer Peter Keepnews wrote for Lateef’s obituary, “[Lateef] played world music before world music had a name.”
21. LIVING FOR THE CITY STEVIE WONDER
Stevie Wonder is a literal genius. At age 11, he was recognized as a child prodigy and signed to Motown’s Tamla label. He revolutionized R&B with the use of electronics and synthesizers, and redefined the “album” with his blend of social consciousness and complex, technical arrangements. Wonder’s an inspiration, a legend, a musical genius—heck, it’s in the name.
22. BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER - LIVE ARETHA FRANKLIN
Queen. Of. Soul. You can’t have a conversation about Detroit music—Detroit history for that matter—without the mention of Aretha Franklin. One of the greatest musicians to ever live, Aretha began her career singing gospel in Detroit, where her father served as a minister. She went on to produce some of the biggest hits in music history, so big they need no mention here. She did music, she did film, and most importantly, she fought for the very principles espoused by the Caring for Communities of Color Conference. If we were all a little more like Aretha, this world would be a better place.